It can be challenging and uncomfortable to face harassment at work, but it's crucial to know what to do if you do or if someone else experiences it. This article will examine the methods of reporting workplace harassment, as well as the procedures to follow and the resources available. We will also go over the reasons for reporting harassment, the benefits of protecting yourself and others, legal options, and more so that you can decide what is best for you.
What is Workplace Harassment?
First, what defines harassment in the workplace? Depending on where you live, the legal definition of harassment may differ, but across the globe, many of these definitions are based on the same concepts. Harassment is based on protected characteristics, like race, gender, or disability, which may vary depending on where you live. Any action that makes someone feel uncomfortable related to these characteristics can be considered harassment. Both public and private spaces are susceptible. Any unwelcome physical, verbal, or visual behavior can fall under the definition of workplace harassment.
Despite government efforts to pass legislation that helps decrease harassment, the number of workplace incidents continues to increase. Usually, harassment becomes unlawful under at least one of two conditions. Harassment is unlawful when it produces a hostile, abusive, or intimidating environment. It is also unlawful when enduring harassment becomes a condition of employment. In other words, when the harasser makes it clear to the target that they will be fired or suffer other consequences if they report the harassment or otherwise stand up to the harasser.
Reasons for Reporting Harassment
Reporting harassment helps to keep the workplace safe by allowing employers to address the issue quickly and take appropriate action. It also encourages other employees to come forward when they experience harassment or witness it happening to someone else. This helps to create a culture of respect in the workplace and encourages employees to speak out against harassment when it occurs.
In addition, reporting harassment can help employers to identify patterns of abuse or harassment, so they can take steps to prevent it from happening again to you or to another coworker. Are you nervous that something you say or do might be taken as harassment? Good strategies for avoiding accidental harassment are to treat all colleagues with kindness and to listen when someone tells you that your behavior has made them uncomfortable.
How to Report Harassment
If you have been made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, it may be time to file a report with your company’s HR office. Your employer is expected to look into any harassment claims you have made after you file them. Investigators will initially question you and any other pertinent witnesses; you can also provide a list of witnesses in your initial report if you have one. You can give the investigators any evidence of harassment at this time, such as messages or emails the harasser may have sent. Employers are also required to take corrective action to stop harassment when the investigation is complete.
In many locations, another option for reporting harassment is to file a report with government agencies. Which agency you report to will depend on your location. You may be able to file a report with agencies at multiple levels, such as a state or province organization and a federal organization. In some places, harassment reports are managed by labor rights organizations, whereas in others, they are managed by civil rights organizations. If you're unsure who to file a report with, you can conduct an internet search using the phrase, "how can I file a harassment report in [your location]."
Rights of People Who Report Harassment
Employees who file a harassment claim have several rights, including the right to a workplace free from retaliation. Retaliation is when someone in the workplace takes revenge on an employee who has exercised a right, like reporting harassment or participating in a harassment investigation. Retaliation can be called different things, depending on where you live: retaliation, victimization, or adverse action.
Retaliation in the workplace can take many forms, such as being terminated or demoted, a negative change in work tasks or location, being denied a promotion, or any other big impact on the person's everyday life, which is often (but not always) financial. Retaliation is often unlawful because it plays such a big part in preventing people from reporting harassment. However, it does still happen. Keep in mind that while we always want employees to report harassment, they could have lots of reasons for not doing so. Don't blame the target for not reporting — harassment is never the target's fault.
People who report harassment have a right to a prompt, unbiased investigation. Reporting employees also have a right to as much confidentiality as is possible within the details of the investigation. Businesses should keep employee information private, but keep in mind that complete confidentiality cannot be guaranteed; investigating harassment claims always requires speaking with the alleged harasser.
Benefits of Reporting Harassment
To help prevent harassment and retaliation, cultivate a positive work culture where employees feel safe reporting. There are many things organizations can do to create a culture of reporting. Employees should be encouraged to report unwelcome behavior when they experience or witness it. Reporting unwelcome behaviors before they turn into harassment is a key tool in harassment prevention.
Every report of harassment should be promptly and thoroughly investigated. Even casual mentions of harassment should be treated like formal reports and investigated appropriately. Supervisors and HR representatives should check in with employees regularly about obstacles to their work and harassment investigations should be kept as private as possible, though complete confidentiality is not possible.
For employers, the benefits of reporting and harassment prevention training can include better employee satisfaction, increased productivity, and avoiding costly lawsuits. Employees should also be regularly trained on how to recognize and report harassment. If you’re in search of the best training solution on the market, look no further than EasyLlama’s suite of Harassment & Discrimination Prevention courses, as well as our new mini-course on Preventing Harassment Through Reporting. Our mini-courses, also known as Llama Bites, can serve as a great refresher to keep up with harassment prevention skills between regular, annual training. Access your free course preview to learn more today!